Farewell to Hemlock: A Message for Life

I love to see movies; and when I see a good movie, I’m tempted to write about it. I don’t see myself as a film critic; so my statement in this note may not be in line with reviewing or critiquing the film. It’s just jotting down my opinions. 

Reference:

The Hemlock Society was a national right-to-die organization founded in 1980, at Santa Monica, California by Derek Humphry, in his garage, when he received a huge response to his memoir Jean’s Way, his account of helping his reportedly terminally ill wife take her own life in 1975. The primary missions of Hemlock Society included providing information to dying persons and supporting legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide.

In 1991, Humphry wrote the book Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying. At the first instance, commercial publishers refused to publish the book, so Hemlock self-published it in hardbound. Within months it made it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It was one of those rarest self-published books ever to hit the bestseller list, earning Hemlock over one million dollars net. In 1992 Random House took over publishing the paperback. In 1992, Humphry left the leadership of Hemlock Society.

Composition:

Writer-director Srijit Mukherjee is among the first few Bengali filmmakers, who brought our modern Bengali cine-sphere to its youth. He makes movie lovers, like us, to enthrall with fresh thoughts, fascinating script, melodious music and stunning cinematic delight (equal credits goes to his cinematographer).

Shree Venkatesh Films deserve praise too, which dares to produce his films with “unusual subject”.

Symptoms:

The film Hemlock Society is a visual delight for the moviegoers, and the story seems really ‘ektu onnyo rakom’ (something different) than a common Bengali films. Although, the promo and teasers said, it’s a story about teaching you about different methods for killing oneself successfully; but the fact is, Srijit Mukherjee’s Hemlock Society told us the nuances of our surroundings and the pleasure of being alive.

Indications:

Hemlock Society is a must watch for these reasons:

  • Parambrata Chattopadhyay. The role Parambrata played in Hemlock Society is broadly inspired by Rajesh Khanna of Anand and Shaharukh Khan of Kal Ho Na Ho, is prime attraction in this film, but he never appeared like Kaka or King Khan. This is where; Parambrata as an actor emerged in his persona of Anada Kar, his screen name. Anada Kar goes very well with his ‘anadakar’ (enjoyable) performance. His use of Hindi film dialogues and songs to express his emotions is very interesting.
  • The presence of Koel Mullick is delight as well. We were accustomed with seeing her in stereotyped roles, she looks is completely different in this film, and especially her emotional expression in very close-up shots are outstanding.
  • The screen chemistry between the veteran actors Rupa Ganguly and Dipankar De is remarkable in the film.
  • The movie have the sparks of veteran actors like Soumitra Chattopadhyay, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Barun Chanda, Sabitri Chatterjee, Sohag Sen, Bratya basu, Shilajit, Sudeshna Roy, Priyanka and director turn actor Raj Chakraborty.  In their tiny roles, each of them has stolen the show.
  • The sense of humor of the director Srijit Mukherjee and his fascinating ways to create fun with names aids the audience to relish the film.

Interactions:

Hemlock society has some unforgettable moments to share:

  • Interaction between Niharika (Rupa Ganguly) and Dr. Chittya Ranjan Basu (Dipankar De) and their portrayal of inter-dependence is very naturalistic; whether it is when the man ask his wife for the name and number of a police officer, referring the beauty of that officer’s wife [after all men will be men :-)] to report about their missing daughter, or, when this couple went to a morgue to identify a dead body suspected as their daughter, and seeing it’s not, the immediate broke-down of the mother and laughter by the father, shows a strong contrast of tension and relief. In another occasion, when the father tells his daughter’s ex-fiancé in front of his current girlfriend, about missing of their daughter and the mother’s unsuccessfully attempts to stop him to do so, is a beautiful portrayal of one’s outrage and practical senses of the other.
  • The sequences, when Meghna (Koel Mullick) is brought to Hemlock Society,  use of a song and the poster from a popular Bengali film ‘Fande Poriya Boga Kande Re’ to depict her mental agony is  an intelligent move by the director. However, the best stroke is when Meghna leaves Hemlock Society compound and the Bengali actor Jeet comes running with a gun-shot mark, at the right side of his white shirt, being chased by police, to display her pain and depression, and being chased by her earlier memories.Ironically Koel Mullick have made her début as an actor with Jeet in Haranath Chakraborty’s Nater Guru in 2003.
  • The cinematography by Soumik Haldar complemented by editing of Bodhaditya Banerjee has made this film a visual delight. Lyrics and Music by Anupam Roy again proved to be the asset for this film. The Hemlock theme music composed by Indradeep Dasgupta, is absolutely apt to portray that emotional chemistry between Ananda Kar and Meghna.

Contra-indications:

  • This film could be a little slimmer. The interest graph raised in the first half doesn’t deliver as expected in the letter half.
  • Excessive use of jerks and handheld shots to signify intensity of situation feels very distracting and sometimes pain to the eyes. Hope, the director and cinematographer duo will take care of this in their future adventures.
  • Although, the subject and concept is very unique in Bengali cinema, still ‘Baishe Srabon’ is still the best from the director.

Prescription:

Hemlock Society as a movie, will make you laugh, make you cry and force you to think, about living. It strongly places the message that there is nothing important in our life than living it fully and enjoy every moments of it, till the last call.